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01 September 2017

Helen can teach us all about business

Helen ThomsonA winner of Kent Business Awards Canterbury tells us about her business journey.

“I founded my company Supply Teachers Direct in July 2015,” said Helen Thomson, Director. “Due to a few teething problems it wasn’t fully operating until November 2016. In March this year, I won the Kent Business Award Entrepreneur 2017.”

Supply Teachers Direct allows schools to contact and recruit teachers directly online. Helen set up the business in order to address the problem of schools spending vast amounts on supply teaching agencies, and supply teachers themselves losing up to a third of their salary in agency fees.

Obstacles en route

Helen’s business success did not come as easily as it sounds. “I was invited by the NUT to deliver a presentation at a supply teachers conference in London in 2015. It seemed too great an opportunity to miss, although I had reservations as the Supply Teachers Direct portal wasn’t fully operational. Sill, I was talked into it. Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, the initial website had to be scrapped and recreated. The completed portal wasn’t ready to launch until a number of months later by which time several copy-cat sites using the same concept has sprung up in different parts of the country.

“They say imitation is the best form of flattery! But this was highly annoying and something of a setback. Most of these new sites are not run by educationalists and allow teachers to register to online. In my view this poses a significant risk to child protection and jeopardises the reputation of the registration model. No teachers are allowed to register with Supply Teachers Direct without a face-to-face interview. So my first piece of advice would be - never divulge your ideas until you are absolutely secure in your position to launch in full.

Overcoming problems

“A more recent challenge has been the impact of HMRC’s amendment to ruling IR35 this April. This highly complex and ambiguous legislation relates to whether a contractor can be regarded as self-employed or should in fact be on the employer’s pay-roll. It has placed the onus on the employer to determine this and has made schools wary of contracting self-employed supply teachers. As it is not feasible in terms of administrative costs and time for a school to place ad-hoc supply teachers on their payroll I have had to seek a solution. From this September, teachers on the scheme will be registered with an umbrella company who will act as an employer and therefore absolve the school of any tax liabilities. I am in the process of sourcing umbrella companies offering the best possible deal to my teachers.

“So to overcome teething problems – apply determination, creative thinking and always follow your own gut feeling regardless of official advice.”

FSB is a proud supporter of the Kent Business Awards. Could you be an award winning business? Enter the Ashford Business Awards now and find out!